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When a Man's in Love

[ Roud 990 ; Laws O20 ; Ballad Index LO20 ; trad.]

Sarah Makem of Keady, Co. Armagh, sang A Man in Love in 1957 to Diane Hamilton. Her recording was included in 2011 on her Musical Traditions anthology As I Roved Out. Rod Stradling noted in the accompanying booklet:

This was written by Hugh McWilliams, a county Antrim schoolmaster who published two volumes Poems and Songs on Various Subjects in 1816 and 1831. This song, directed to be sung to the air Moses Gathering the Children, was originally rather more florid and has been published under John Moulden's editorship in Songs of Hugh McWilliams, Schoolmaster, 1831 (Portrush, 1993).

Another night-visiting song; not a particularly well-known one, with only 36 Roud entries, almost all of which are from Ireland, and mostly from the North. Every named singer is well-known, and this in itself is unusual—there are usually some unfamiliar names in such lists. It must have remained popular with singers since 23 of the entries refer to sound recordings but, again unusually, only one—that by Paddy Tunney—is available on CD.

Paddy Tunney of Co. Fermanagh sang When a Man's in Love on the anthology Songs of Courtship (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 1; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968) and on his 1965 Topic album of Irish traditional ballads, A Wild Bee's Nest . The latter recording was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Come Let Us Buy the License (The Voice of the People Volume 1).

A.L. Lloyd sang When a Man's in Love a year later on his 1966 Prestige/Transatlantic LP The Best of A.L. Lloyd too. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Anyone seeking an object lesson in the way of the folk with tune could hardly do better than compare a few of the many versions of the Dives and Lazarus (or Star of the County Down) melody. When a Man's in Love is a particular fine variant of this tune which, it is said, was the one “most frequently heard in the streets of London in the mouths of men seeking employment” in the 19th century. It's another of the tunes for which England is indebted to generous Ireland. Printed versions of the song show it has spread (from Ulster?) at least as far as Nova Scotia.

Shirley Collins recorded When a Man's in Love in Blackheath, London, in c. 1964. This previously unreleased recording from Alan Lomax's The Folk Songs of North America had to wait until 2002 to be included on her Fledg'ling anthology Within Sound.

Chris Foster recorded When a Man's in Love for his 1977 Topic album Layers and for his 2003 CD Traces.

Sarah McQuaid sang When a Man's in Love in 1997 on her first album, When Two Lovers Meet. She commented in her liner notes:

I heard the wonderful Dundalk singer Seán Corcoran doing this song a good few years ago and was struck by its sensuous lyrics (“her hands so soft her breath so sweet / her tongue did gently glide”—mmmm!). It belongs to a genre known as “night visiting” songs and probably dates from the mid-19th century.

James Findlay sang When a Man's in Love in 2011 on his Fellside CD Sport and Play.

Andy Turner learned When a Man's in Love from the singing of Dick Gaughan on Five Hand Reel’s eponymous first LP, and sang it as the January 27, 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings When a Man's in Love Chris Foster sings When a Man's in Love

When a man's in love he knows no cold
Like me not long ago.
To see his girl like a hero bold,
He'll plough through frost and snow.
The moon she'd gently shed her light
Along me weary way,
Until I came to that sweet place
Where all my treasure lay.

When a man's in love he feels no cold,
Like me not long ago,
Like a hero bold, to see his girl,
He'll plough through frost and snow.
The moon she gently shed her light
Along my dreary way,
Until I came to that sweet spot
Where all my treasure lay.

I knocked at my love's window,
Saying, “My dear, are you within?”
And softly then she drew the bolt
And slyly I slipped in.
Her breath was sweet, her hands was neat,
Her tongue did gently glide,
As I gave her a kiss and I surely didn't miss
And I asked to be my bride.

I knocked at my love's window,
Thinking, “Me dear, are you within?”
And softly she undid the latch,
And slyly I slipped in.
Her hand was soft and her breath was sweet,
Her tongue did gently glide,
I stole a kiss, it was no miss,
And I asked her to be my bride.

“Take me to your bedroom, dear,
Oh, take me to your bed.
Take me to your bedroom, dear,
To rest my weary head.”
“To take you to my bedroom, dear,
My parents they'd never agree,
So please sit by the bright fireside
And I'll sit close to thee.”

“Take me to your chamber, love,
Take me to your bed,
Take me to your chamber, love,
To rest my weary head.”
“To take you to my chamber, love,
My parents they won't agree,
But sit you down by yon bright fire
And I will sit close by thee.”

“Many long month I've courted you
Against your parent's will.
You never once said you'd be my bride
So now my love be still.
Tomorrow I am going to cross the sea
To far Newfoundland shore,
And you will never, never see
Your faithful lover no more.”

“Many is the time I courted you
Against your father's will,
But you never once said that you would be my bride,
So now my dear sit still,
Tonight I am going to cross the sea,
To far Columbia's shore,
And you will never never see
Your youthful lover more.

“Many is the dark and stormy night
I came to visit you,
Whether tossed about by cold winter winds,
Or wet by the morning dew.
Tonight our courtship is at an end
Between my love and me,
So fare you well, my favourite girl,
A long farewell to thee.”

“Oh are you going to leave me now?
Whatever shall I do?
I'll break every bond of love,
My darling to please you.
Perhaps my parents may forgive
Or surely may forget,
But I'm resolved this very hour
To take you to my bed.”

“And are you going to leave me now?
Pray what can I do?
I would break through every bond of love
To go along with you.
Perhaps my parents won't forget,
But maybe they'll forgive –
For from this hour I am resolved
Along with you to live.”

Well with a kiss the bond was sealed,
Our joys they did come down.
From courtship scarce I was released
As we became as one.
Though all outside was frost and cold,
Two fires they burned within,
And we rolled there together in that sweet place
Until the day did dawn.

And then with a kiss the ring was closed,
The wedding it's come on,
From courtship's cares they are released,
These two were joined in one.
Then with a kiss the ring was closed,
The wedding it's come on,
From courtship's cares they are released,
These two were joined in one.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Garry Gillard for the lyrics of Chris Foster's version